The Watch

Ulug Depe

near Dushak, Ahal Province, Turkmenistan

2012 World Monuments Watch

Spanning 35 acres and elevated 100 feet above the surrounding landscape, the ancient settlement of Ulug Depe is an impressive site of earthen archaeological remains. The town flourished during the Bronze and Iron Ages (fourth to early first millennia B.C.), although excavations and research suggest that habitation of the site began in the late Neolithic period (seventh millennium B.C.). Public buildings dominate the upper and northern section of the site, including fortifications, a citadel, and storage rooms built during the Iron Age. Vernacular residential buildings are found in the lower section of the ancient city. Foreign travelers frequent the site, as well as local residents who visit the site during funeral processions and pilgrimages, illustrating connections between the ancient settlement and contemporary life. Ulug Depe is an important remnant of Bronze Age Bactria. However, time has taken its toll on this built record of history. The site’s elevated and prominent position has exposed the ruins to a harsh climate of wind, sand, and seasonal torrential rains. The lack of tourist infrastructure has also led to erosion from visitors walking directly on the city’s earthen remains. An integrated research and conservation program has been proposed that will raise local and international awareness of this ancient city and build capacities for its long-term stewardship.

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